The Renaissance in Europe is an ambitious enterprise. It includes five volumes, at least five disciplines (history, art history, history of science, music and literature, in French and Spanish as well as in English), and a team of twenty-three people, from the course manager to the picture researchers and of course the thirteen authors.
It is to be expected that many edited collections of essays will be somewhat disparate in content and approach whatever the overall framework. This volume, however, is even more disparate than most.
The figure of the devadasi, or ‘temple-woman’, who entertained Hindu gods at festivals, hardly needs an introduction. Because of her supposed sexual availability, the devadasi became a potent and notorious symbol of the corruption of Hindu society.
It is one of those quirky features of our ancient, but constantly changing, Constitution that one particular Cabinet Office document may warrant such an extensive enquiry. However, Amy Baker's Prime Ministers and the Rule Book rises to the challenge and produces a convincing and illuminating study.
First published in 1961, Holt's Modern History of the Sudan deservedly established itself as the standard introduction to the subject. Holt revised the work in 1963; since 1979 he has collaborated with Martin Daly on further - slightly retitled - editions, of which this is the most recent.
The sesquicentenary period of the Great Irish Famine has seen a great outpouring of books, articles, newspaper features, TV and radio programmes.
This is a relatively short book by Britain's leading historian of sexuality, but it has a big agenda. Drawing on a wide range of primary and secondary sources, Lesley Hall discusses the shifts, the continuities and the changes in sexual custom and practice that prevailed between 1880 and the present day.
Hardly a month seems to go by without another book being published about early modern witchcraft. Academic enthusiasm for this particular topic certainly shows no signs of abating, and it is becoming increasingly difficult to keep up with the burgeoning literature on the subject.
This is an admirable feat of constructive compression. It achieves synthesis without sacrificing clarity, a feature that has become one of the author's hallmarks. What makes this book the more impressive is that within small confines it argues so effectively against reductionism in the study of national identity.
The lack of synthetical treatments of the reign of Charlemagne is both striking and surprising. In spite of the ever-growing volume of academic monographs and articles on the Carolingian period, there is no even vaguely adequate introduction in English, French or German.